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Our 39th anniversary

Richie and I on a river boat trip - Florida 1976

So my sweet Richard, who sadly passed away on 4/27/15 after an extremely difficult five years of serious, multiple ailments, and I would have been together 39 years on 9/23.  We first met on 9/23/76 when my car broke down and I needed a tow truck.  From where I was staying with a now dearly departed friend, Rosalyn, and her husband after just moving to Philadelphia in July of that year, I began calling tow truck services.  After talking to four of them with not very good results because either they didn’t go out to where my car was pulled off the road, or it would take hours to get somebody to come out, I decided to try one last place, Bill Downey’s Exxon in Roxborough (a very wooded, hilly, western suburb of Philly).  Bill answered the phone, took the information, said that he would get hold of his tow truck driver who was on  his way back from Baltimore, and have him call me directly.  Sure enough, about twenty minutes later I received a call from a very nice and polite guy who asked where I was at right then.  I told him, he said that he knew where it was, and that he would come by in about an hour to pick me up.

I went downstairs to nervously sit in the lobby and true to his word he pulled up almost an hour later.  I walked outside, heard the driver door slam shut and around the front of the truck walked this very skinny guy wearing dirty gray coveralls, and a train cap tilted backwards on a head of curly black hair.  With a crooked grin and smiling eyes, while wiping his dirty hands on an equally dirty rag, he asked, “If I was the nice young lady who called for a tow job,” and I replied “Yes”, smiling sweetly back at this cute guy who resembled a young Clint Eastwood, ala Rowdy Yates from the old TV western ‘Rawhide’.  He helped me step way up into the truck, jumped in the other side, and we then drove down to where the car was parked off the road along the Schuylkill River.  After hooking it up we brought it back to the apartment house I was staying at and he parked it in the back part of the lot.  He asked what I was going to do about the car and I said that I wasn’t sure.  He asked if it was okay if could he come back after he finished work to take a look at the car and I said yes, just call me first so I can come outside to meet him.

I already had a dinner date set with a nice young man down the hallway so I was down at his apartment when I got a phone call from my friend Rosalyn saying that my tow truck driver was outside.  She said that with a laugh because I had conveyed to her how cute he was.  I told Don that I was really sorry, but I had to leave.  He was a psychologist and although a really nice guy was kind of weird, so he asked if I wanted to take some food with me since it was all ready and that I might not be back.  I said sure so he wrapped me up a few pieces of fish and a baked potato.  He had been trying to get me on a date for weeks ever since we first met in the elevator so he definitely displayed his disappointment.  I told him not to worry, that we would try it again soon.  Mmmmm, that truly didn’t happen because it seemed that I had truly met my soulmate.

Then I went downstairs and out the back way to the parking lot where Richard was already looking at the engine of my old 62 black VW.  Saying hello I watched for a few minutes as he looked at different things under the hood.  He then gazed up at me, displayed that crooked smiled again, and asked if he smelled fish.  I laughed, said yes, and would he like some.  Still grinning he said that he hadn’t eaten any dinner yet and he was pretty hungry.  So he ate both pieces of fish and part of the potato (I tossed the other half away).  After a bit he said that he would have to take it over to where the gas station was so he could work on it there in his spare time and would I mind?  I said with a little reservation – “no” – but that I needed to change clothes first (not wanting to jump on that dirty truck seat dressed up).  So I hurried upstairs, changed from my skirt and blouse to jeans, a sweater, and sneakers.  Back downstairs Richard took my hand and helped struggle into the truck because he already the VW hooked up.  We then drove over to Ridge and Shawmont where Bill Downey’s Exxon was.

As he began driving me back to where I was staying he asked if I wanted to see his apartment.  Oh no, red flags were raised.  Who was this guy who I knew nothing about?  Was he a murderer, a serial rapist, a complete maniac, who knew what?  With a wary smile I said, “No, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable in doing that”.  He laughed and told me not to worry, that he would be a complete gentleman, he just wanted to show me where he lived, so again with reservation I said, “Yes.”

When he opened the door to his apartment on Ridge Avenue and I walked in I was immediately assaulted by the biggest dog I had ever seen.  This monster of a dog stood on her hind legs, put two massive paws on each side of my head against the wall behind me, thus pinning me securely.  Then just as quick a large tongue came out and began licking my cheek……double yuk!  Richard immediately grabbed the dog’s collar and said, “Tina, get down.  Bad doggie.”

Tina?  Doggie?  No way I thought as my heart rate began to slow down.

After showing me the kitchen, dining room, and then the living room which had a full size Harley motorcycle parked against the one wall, he asked if I wanted to see the bedroom.  Oh no, those huge red flags again sprang up.  “Richard, honestly, I’m not that kind of a girl.”  Once again he smiled, laughed loudly, grabbed my hand and said, “I told you, don’t worry.  You can stand in the hallway.” as he tugged me along.  I definitely stood outside the door, not even desiring to get near the bed.

The bedroom had guns and swords hanging on the walls with a full American flag spread on the ceiling over top of the bed.  Shaking my head slightly I figured he was definitely some extremist, a terrorist, anything but the nice young man who wanted to work on my car and show me his bedroom.  Needless to say, I was very anxious to get safely out of his deep, dark lair.  He then safely took me back home.  I thanked him and he said that he would call me when the car was done.  Oh, and he asked polity if he could give me a kiss on the cheek and I said yes.  What a guy!

Three days later he called and said the car was done.  I asked him how much I owed him and he said nothing.  No I told him, you will take something for your services.  He laughed, said to pay him $10.00 for the part, but that the rest of the payment would be having dinner with him that coming Friday evening.  I agreed and that was how we met to began nearly 39 years together.  He always called me his ‘Independence Baby’ since we met in 1976 and told me later on that after he talked to me initially on the phone he told the girl at the desk he was calling from that, “I’m going to fall in love and marry that girl.”

Well, he was certainly right.  We fell in love and, of course, as in any long time relationship it wasn’t all fun and games, lovey dovey stuff, but we did have love and in the end, that’s all that is ever needed.  Soul mate is a difficult word to figure out because a person does meet many people in his or her life, along with numerous relationships.  But then one does seem to connect with somebody on a much deeper level which he and I did.

I love you Richard, rest in peace my sweet.  I’m sure that when my time comes to cross through those pearly gates you will be there with that same crooked smile, your hand out to take mine, and ask if he can give me a big kiss.

Those Old Pink Sneakers

So I submitted this very short 750 page short story to a contest in Writer’s Digest.  You had to write this teeny weeny short story about a picture they displayed which was a photo of an old rickety fence along a beach with two old pink (or red) sneakers stuck on the top of two fence posts.  They selected five stories of which sadly mine was not one of them.  How they could oversee such a wonderful story is beyond me, but they did.  I read briefly the five stories selected to be put on their web site for voting and although good were just okay **smile**.  Actually, I was hoping and somewhat disappointed that mine didn’t at least get picked to be read on the site and voted on, but that happens in an author’s life, rejection.  So here is the story and I hope you like it.  Remember that my husband Richard passed away on April 27th so this is somewhat about he and I.

Those Old Pink Sneakers

Sitting quietly on a piece of old driftwood I stared at the rickety wooden fence which had withstood seemingly a lifetime of storms, happiness, and sorrow.  On the other side a strip of beach extended to the water’s edge, gentle waves still cold on this late April morning.

I gazed at the sand between my legs, eyes closing in remembrance.  Allowing my memory to freelance it raced to a similar day in July nearly forty years ago.  You were laughing loudly while tugging me urgently towards the empty beach.

“Come on baby, nobody is out there.  It belongs to us, our very own place.  Don’t be such a chicken.”

I held back which was my normal cautious approach to just about everything in life.  Small sand dunes piled up against the heels of my shoes as I held firm from your tugging.

“The fence is here for a reason Richard, along with the torn sign further up the beach that says ‘Stay out, no…’ which missing word I assume is ‘trespassing’.  That to me clearly says stay out.”

Letting go of my hand you shook your head, stuck out your tongue, turned and leaped the fence as if it weren’t even there.  Spinning around you raised your arms and proclaimed, “See, I’m still alive and it didn’t hurt one bit.  Now come on and join me.”

I moved towards you, albeit hesitantly, until I stood up against the fence.  Suddenly you reached forward with those strong mechanic’s hands placed firmly under my arms and lifted me over to where I now stood facing you.

Embracing me tightly, you whispered in my ear, “Oh no, now you’ve done it.  Since we’re criminals we may as well break one more law.”

Turning quickly you raced towards the water while kicking off your shoes and then tossing your blue tee shirt a few yards away, exposing a strong, but wiry, upper torso.  You plunged into the breaking waves, head surfacing momentarily, laughing loudly and spitting out saltwater.

“Oh my God, it feels great.  Come on, join me.”

Shaking my head, long auburn hair swishing across my back, I laughed in response.

“I’m not going to get my clothes all wet so you just enjoy yourself.  I’ll watch.”

“You are such a big baby.  Take them off, I’m sure you’re wearing panties and a bra, right?” you teased.

Of course I was per mother’s strict orders when I was growing up.  Slipping out of pink sneakers, I tugged a matching pink top over my head and shook my hair.  Letting white shorts fall down to my ankles I wondered quickly what I was actually getting myself into with this young, wild, handsome man who loved working on cars, riding motorcycles, and drinking whiskey out of a flask.

Without hesitating I ran forward and dove into the concealing waters off the coast of New Jersey.  As I surfaced you spun me around, arms encircling my waist.  Our lips met in a long kiss, cool and salty, while my heart was warm and bursting with a sense of new found love.

However, tears now trickled from beneath tightly closed eyelids.  It was only three days ago that I stared down at his peaceful body lying in the hospital bed, breathing labored and extremely shallow.  Painfully I knew that our life together was now at an end.  That strong, virile, handsome, oh so crazy guy I had met just a week prior to the 4th of July holiday weekend in 1976 was finally ready to call it quits.  Half a lifetime of memories, good and bad, emotionally swirled in my mind.

Holding his cold, lifeless hand tightly I leaned forward and kissed his lips, now motionless and cold, not alive and salty like in the ocean off that New Jersey coastline.

“It’s okay my love, time for you to go and put an end to all your pain and suffering,” I whispered.  “We’ll be together again someday.”

Wiping tears from my eyes and cheeks I stood and shook free of those same old pink sneakers I had worn thirty-nine years before.  Bending down I tenderly picked them up and slowly moved forward, placing each sneaker on the jagged ends of two fence posts.

Blowing a loving kiss toward our special beach I turned and sadly walked away, yet fully aware that my beloved Richard would be there ready to help me over one last fence at which time we would be together again.

It’s been a while since I posted anything to my blog and I’m definitely going to change that going forward.  The last three years have been absolutely crazy.  Both my mom and dad got very sick with pneumonia in January, 2013.  Sadly my father succumbed to it on April Fool’s Day no less, and my mom ended up in a nursing home.  We had to sell the old homestead and watched a lot of memories in that house fade away.  It was all very tough.  Of course, during all that my husband Richard continued to go down hill health wise.

And then around June 2013 a tumor was found in my lower jaw so I had to have that removed along with nearly my entire lower mandible.  The surgery was done by a magnificent surgeon and man, Dr. Mulligan, at Temple University Hospital.  In the hospital for about six days, get discharged and come home.  After a few days I sense that something is just not right because the huge incision under my chin is still draining and it hurts.  Back in the hospital ER five days later only to have emergency surgery to open my jaw back up where it was filled twice a day with antibiotic packing.  Nearly my entire upper neck and area under my jaw was wide open so much you could actually see my larynx.  I have pictures, but they’re too gross to put on here even though this sounds like a horror story.

So I go back home eleven days later, recuperate on disability, back to work until April 2014 when I went back to Temple for complete jaw reconstruction where they also removed my entire right fibula bone from the back of my lower leg.  Nice scar there let me tell you.  That was a thirteen and a half hour operation and a nice hospitalization for sixteen days.  Recuperated from that and started the process of getting fitted for a plate on the bottom of my mouth towards the end of last year, but I was still feeling pain.  As a result, Dr. Mulligan decided to have me go back down to Temple where I had jaw realignment surgery, something they were unable to do in the marathon surgery the year before.

Since then I’m feeling better, but my lower jaw will never be the same.  Many of the nerves were damaged completely so I will always have quite a bit of tightness and numbness.  But I’ve started the process of getting fitted for teeth again.  In fact, I go back down next Tuesday to see if the first impressions fit.  Can’t wait and hopefully they will feel and look okay.  It has been a three year jaw-stopping journey to be sure.

But, that’s not all.  Two weeks after I get done with my jaw realignment surgery in April, my husband Richard passed away on April 27, finally succumbing to a very long, painful illness.  He had not been home since last October, bouncing back and forth between different hospitals and nursing homes.  Fortunately I was able to be with him at Albert Einstein hospital that morning.  In fact, we were going to be moving him back to the nursing home for hospital care that afternoon.  But he stopped breathing, rather peacefully I might add, late in the morning.  He knew I was there and that was good, but hard.

So that’s my life the last three years in a nutshell.  If you told me in 2012 that all of that would be happening I would ask what you were drinking or smoking.  Now I’m getting set for retirement and looking forward to finally writing full time.  I’m currently working on my next novel, “Scrolls of Sorrow” and hope to have it done by end of this year, early next year.  And then next year finish up “The Reptilian Factor”, and the third Raven novel, “Raven Unleashed”.  After that I have tons of ideas and retirement will give me more time to market myself and my books.

That’s it for now and I’m definitely going to be posting more that’s for sure.

Back to work today which was good in a way, at least I was out of the house. Still, I had tears in my eyes most of the day talking about Rain. My co-workers signed a nice card for me which also made me cry. They are very supportive though and know how much Rain meant to us. My husband was home though and it was tough for him since he’s partially disabled and Rain was always so much company for him.

I also stopped at a parcel shop to send back the Thundershirt I had ordered for Rain. Typed up a nice, heartfelt, tear jerker of a letter to send back with it. I would’ve gladly passed it along to someone with a dog who hated thunder like Rain did, but alas, seems like I had the only baby when it came to loud noises.

So now all that’s left in the house to remind us of Rain at the moment are five of her favorite toys, the leash that I always walked her with hanging underneath the mailbox which is on the porch, and her collar which I got the night she went to sleep. Oh, I certainly have hundreds of pictures which I started compiling so I can put together a scrapbook this weekend.  Probably at the end of this week, beginning of next, I should be getting her ashes which will be extremely emotional for sure. But at least she’ll still be with us in some capacity.

Apparently the toys have stopped squeaking so I feel comfortable that Rain has finally gone forward. I know that she’s happily romping in the fields with other dogs and cats.

It was a little hard for me when I got home from work and walked up onto the porch. She would always hear me coming and be looking out the side window on the door. I teared up as I didn’t see her anxious face knowing that mommy was home. I also realized this morning that this is the first time since we moved to this house back in 1982 when we didn’t have a dog or cat(s), thus the reason for all the quiet.

Oh well, I guess it will get easier as days go by, but I know that I will never, ever forget her since she literally has crawled inside my heart forever.

Still with a heavy heart

The picture is my husband Richard holding our precious Rain.  She was such a baby.

 

So here it is Monday afternoon and the tears, they still commeth. Maybe not as constantly as the first few days, but they do still fall. I took off work today and got together four bags of her belongings which I took to the local SPCA. I know that Rain would be happy and pleased to know that some other dogs at a shelter would have some enjoyment with her toys. I didn’t want to cry, but I did and they gave me a receipt and that receipt will go into Rain’s scrapbook which I will be putting together over the next week or so. I’ve already amassed nearly 250 pictures. I just had this smile etched on my face with tears trickling down my cheeks as I looked at pictures from when she was a puppy in 2003 and then all the way through 2009. Sadly, I don’t seem to have any recent pictures of her. Probably because my husband became so ill last March, 2010 that pictures were the last thing from my mind. If I would’ve only known then I could’ve taken another 250 pictures of this beautifully photogenic dog. What a ham she was too. She could pose better than any dog I’ve seen, including most Best of Show winners.

Still, my heart and mind are filled with pictures of her. Maybe I will find that one special camera put away in a drawer that will have a few precious, more recent, photos of her.

But for now, the house is so damn quiet, so lonely. Everytime I would get up to go someplace in the house she would follow me. She had a bed between our chairs that she would lie in and we would rub her belly, scratch her head. She had another bed behind my recliner where she curled up most of the time, her little nest so to speak. They’re both gone now and all of the fur she left behind is gone as well. However, and I know this is kind of spooky, after I got home today, after carting off a huge bag of toys, while I was sitting in the livingroom, one of four toys I decided to keep for memories squeaked. It’s just too much to understand, but I take it all as a sign that she knows I loved her so much and that she’s safe, not hurting anymore, and having fun romping with the other animals.

People who don’t understand will say, “It’s only a dog.” But for those of us who know better, for those of us who have been blessed with the special love only a loving dog or cat can provide, Rain was not just a dog. Rain was an angel who happened to have four legs, large brown eyes, a beautiful curving tail that would lie on her back, a long spotted tongue, and four paws where the hair grew so long that I called them her ‘wookie’ feet. And she had this way of speaking **yes, speaking** that sounded like Chubaka. There was not a person who didn’t fall in love with her once they realized that her bark was not nearly as scarey as it seemed to be.

I also called Thundershirt today to see about returning the thundershirt that I ordered for Rain because she hated thunder. It came last Thursday and Rain was gone to doggie heaven on Friday evening. I guess thunder will never bother her again thankfully.

Ah crap, what can I say but that I miss her terribly and will do so for a very, very, very long time. She was this tiny little furry angel that came into my life in 2003 and will now forever be the beautiful dog that will lead me forward and be there on the other side of the bridge when I’m eventually called home in the coming years. In fact, she’ll be there with Sheena and I will feel very safe, secure, and extremely loved.

It’s just so very strange that I find it hard to explain, but I feel so positively that she has been telling us since yesterday that she’s okay, not to worry, that she loves and misses us terribly. How does she tell us that? Through her toys which I sorted out on Sunday through a veil of tears. After washing and drying all the ones (of which there are many) still in very good condition with their squeaks, barks, oinks, croaks, and screeches, they were all lying in a pile in a clothes basket. I picked out four that she really loved to play with, one of them being a gorilla that screeched when she bit down and shook unmercifully. Sitting in the livingroom yesterday afternoon I kept hearing the faintest of squeaks until I realized that it was coming from the pile of her toys. Impossible I thought, couldn’t be. And yet it continued, probably every fifteen minutes or so. Then, later in the afternoon, that lovable gorilla that I placed on a table where we have a small TV sitting, started screeching. Nobody had touched it and you have to squeeze the belly to make it screech. It did that six times in a matter of thirty minutes.

I had chills running up and down my spine and tears in my eyes. I whispered, “Thank you Rain, I know that you’re with us and I love you so much.” Talk about emotional and strange, but thankful that it happened.

Was it done? NO!! The squeak continued to come from the toy box after we turned off the lights in the livingroom. So I went through the basket, took most of them out and placed them on the floor around the basket…just in case that squeak was coming because a heavier one was pressing down on a smaller one. It was quiet then, no sounds so that must’ve been it. Suddenly three little squeaks and I inwardly freaked out. She was here, she was telling me not to worry, that she was safe, not in pain or sick anymore, that she was having fun playing and that she would wait for me. I feel better, but still hurting so bad inside that I had to make the decision to say good-bye.

Oh yeah, this morning only about fifteen minutes ago, that same toy squeaked again. I suppose she loves us so much that she isn’t ready to leave just yet. But I know in my heart that when I cross the Rainbow Bridge she’ll be there wagging her tail.

Beautiful Rain in every sense of the imagination

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